Sunday, September 6, 2009

House construction of Lisu

The ridge-pole of a house follows the contour of the hillside. The only door is always made in the middle of the lower side. Opposite the 'ancestral altar'(ta bya). This places the altar on the uphill side of the house, so it is 'above the people'. At ceremonial feasts the most respected elders sit nearest the altar, while the younger men sit nearer the door. No house in the village may be built directly in front of another, as that would obstruct the unseen 'spirit path' that goes through the door to the altar. Lisu tend to build their houses far enough apart so that if one should burn, the fire would not spread to other house.
There are two types of houses: 'ground house'(micha hi), with packed earth for the floorl and 'elevated house'(kacha hi) built on posts. Houses built on the ground are more popular at higher elevations, as they are warmer. In both types the main bedroom is on the uphill side, next to the ancestral altar. The other bedrooms and guest areas are constructed according to need and available space. In some clans the fireplace must not come between the door and the ancestral altar.
The size of the house depends on the number of people living in it. Small children sleep with their parents in the main bedroom. Children from the age of about 10 to puberty sleep on the guest platforms, girls on one and boys on the other. When there are guests the girls go to the house of puberty are given a bedroom of their own. A married son living with his parents has a separate bedroom for his family.
Lisu welcome guests into the main room of the house, and look after their needs. They expect the guests to stay out of the bedrooms, not to interfere with the ancestral altar, and not to sleep with their heads toward the fire, which is sacred. The first fire in a new house must be started bay an older person. It should be someone who has parented at least on child.
When the altar is installed, the ancestral spirits are asked to take up residence. Two cocks and an hen are sacrificed, and meat from them, some cooked and some raw, is placed on the altar. During special ceremonies the ancestral spirits residing in the altar are addressed by the terms, 'You who rule the gold, you who rule the silver', for it is through their blessing that the household for it is through their blessing that the household can gain wealth.

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